The Government of Ontario is looking for ways to improve unemployment rates among people with disabilities. Current statistics indicate that Ontario’s average is two times that of national and provincial figures. To address this issue, the province has introduced an employment strategy to encourage businesses to hire at least one individual that self-identifies as having a disability.
Today, 1 in 7 people are living with a disability and many of these individuals remain unemployed because of their physical and/or mental employment barriers. Despite being well-educated and highly motivated, these people are consistently denied employment from a young age. In a recent call for action, the Government of Ontario is requesting that businesses with 20+ employees commit to hiring workers with disabilities to tackle unemployment rates.
To accommodate the government’s request, small and medium-sized businesses can access grants and loans to offset the cost of hiring and training new employees, including workers with disabilities. Ontario government funding makes it easier for businesses to create new jobs and invest in workforce development initiatives.
Hiring Workers with Disabilities to Address Ontario’s High Unemployment Rates
Disabilities come in many forms, including physical or mental ailments related to mobility, sight, hearing, learning, dexterity, pain, development, and psychological disorders. Over 15% of Ontario’s population identifies as fitting one or more of those categories.
Hiring an individual with a disability may seem like a risk to some business owners, however, employers are forgetting to see the ‘able’ within the word disabled.
Statistics Canada recently reported that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is more than double the national average. To address this issue, the government is asking all businesses with more than 20 employees to hire at least one additional person with a disability.
In June 2017, the Government of Ontario announced a multi-tier employment strategy to improve unemployment rates among the province’s disabled community. The strategy’s main objectives will include:
- Developing additional employment opportunities for disabled youth;
- Integrating and co-ordinating employment services by taking more of a supported employment approach;
- Ensuring the Government of Ontario takes a proactive role in hiring disabled workers; and
- Accommodate Ontario’s growing population.
If successful, the strategy could create 56,000 new jobs and reduce the number of unemployed Ontarians with a disability by 30%.
Access Government Funding to Offset the Cost of Hiring Workers with Disabilities
To make it easier for employers to get on-board with the new strategy, the Government of Ontario offers funding for hiring to help businesses reduce the cost of expanding their workforce. Currently, there are two funding programs specifically designed to help offset the cost of hiring Ontarians with disabilities:
- Option 1: Receive up to 50% coverage of employee wages to a maximum $13,500 in Ontario government grants for 3 to 9 months; or
- Option 2: Access up to $20,000 to offset salary and specialized training of employees for up to 12 weeks OR up to 90% coverage assistive devices, specialized training, and assessments to a maximum of $3,000 per application.
Interested businesses may contact Mentor Works to learn more about either of these hiring grants and determine whether their business is eligible to apply for government funding.
Companies That Hire Disabled Workers Can Leverage Funding for Training
The Canada-Ontario Job Grant also provides training grants to help employers invest in workforce development initiatives. This program is available for both training to assist employees with disabilities and to improve the employability of a business’ workforce. Eligible businesses can access Ontario government funding to enhance their labour force by upskilling and educating new/existing employees. Ontario small business grants can be used to offset third-party training programs that lead to operational and productivity improvements.
Eligible employers can access up to 50%-83% of eligible training costs to a maximum $10,000 in Ontario government grants per trainee.
How to Apply for Funding
To get started with COJG, businesses must submit an application package that includes a company overview, detailed training plans, training impacts, and vendor quotes. Within the application, businesses must identify all trainees by name and how the training will impact their role within the company. Typically, applications are reviewed and approved within 2-4 weeks.
Learn More About Government Funding Opportunities for Your Business
Business grants and loans help accelerate the growth and development of companies across Ontario. By staying up-to-date on current government funding programs, businesses can ensure they never miss an opportunity to leverage funding for their strategic projects.